In liberal Democratic circles, the debate over Social Security has taken a dangerous "don't worry, be happy" turn. The argument has two equally dishonest components. The first is to deny that Social Security faces a daunting financing problem - one that will be much easier to fix (and less onerous for the low-income retirees that the head-in-the-sanders purport to care about) sooner rather than later. The second is to mischaracterize the arguments of those who advocate responsible action, accusing them of hyping the system's woes. One prominent practitioner of this misguided approach is New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. "Inside the Beltway, doomsaying about Social Security -- declaring that the program as we know it can't survive the onslaught of retiring baby boomers -- is regarded as a sort of badge of seriousness, a way of showing how statesmanlike and tough-minded you are," Krugman wrote last week. "In fact, the whole Beltway obsession with the fiscal burden of an aging population is misguided." Somebody should introduce Paul Krugman to . . . Paul Krugman.
So much to say. So little time.
I could say the Social Security does not face a daunting problem and the very long-run shortfall can be readily fixed, but Brad DeLong has already said that:
Is America's Social Security system now in a long-run funding crisis? The answer to this question is "no." It's more likely than not that Social Security revenues will have to be raised a bit or benefits cut a bit relative to current law or both in the next fifty years, and almost certain that one or the other or both will have to be done in the next century. But it is a long-run problem, not a crisis. And it is - relative to the scale of other things that have gone wrong--not a large long-run problem.
Brad discussion of the real fiscal crisis continues, but I want to get to this oft heard nation that Krugman is being dishonest so let me turn the microphone over to Mark Thoma who has links to some very good discussions from various smart folks including Paul:
Ruth Marcus uses quotes from Paul Krugman dated 2001 or earlier to try to show he has been inconsistent on the Social Security financing issue. The subtext is, or course, that he is being dishonest. But had Ruth Marcus included this quote from Paul Krugman's 2005 piece in her editorial (or quotes from other pieces of the vast amount Krugman has written about Social Security after 2001), it would have changed the interpretation of the quotes she includes in her article.
Mark is suggesting that Ruth Marcus is the dishonest one here. Brad seems to think she does not understand this issue at all. Brad often asks whether some really awful op-ed was example of Stupidity or Mendacity? It would seem that with the Washington Post, it’s both. But we have seen this movie before. Paul Krugman offers up some compelling discussion on an issue that offends the rightwing agenda of this Administration – and certain rag publications (e.g., National Review, Weekly Standard) twist both his words and the facts to slam Dr. Krugman as being both dumb and dishonest. It is sad to see that the Washington Post has lowered itself to be just another rightwing rag.